9:52am PT by Eriq Gardner
Weinstein Co. Board Members Targeted in Racketeering Class Action
Bob Weinstein and other members of The Weinstein Company's board of directors have been hit with a new class action for allegedly facilitating Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct. The lawsuit filed on Friday in New York federal court appears to be an attempt to dodge the bankruptcy of The Weinstein Co., which is called an "unnamed co-conspirator" in the newest complaint.
Previously, six women led an attempted class action asserting racketeering against The Weinstein Co., Miramax and various individuals including James Dolan, chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company. Notably, the case was being handled by attorneys at Hagens Berman as well as M. Cris Armenta. Those same attorneys are now leading the new action against Miramax and TWC board members with new named plaintiffs including Caitlin Dulany, Larissa Gomes and Melissa Thompson.
According to the complaint (read here), Dulany met Harvey Weinstein in 1996 outside the Miramax office. Through the complaint, the aspiring actress says she "felt very lucky" at the time but later was "sexually assaulted, battered, threatened and falsely imprisoned... in his Miramax hotel suite at the Cannes Film Festival."
Gomes, a Canadian citizen who was looking for opportunities in Miramax films, alleges she was imprisoned by Weinstein in a hotel room and assaulted.
Thompson alleges she pitched a new technology platform for marketing TWC films in 2011 and was sexually harassed and subsequently assaulted.
"Moreover, in October 2017, Weinstein’s attorneys, Benjamin Brafman and Alex Spiro, used deceptive tactics to cause her to believe that Brafman and Spiro were working for the victims in order to entice her to turn over her visual and audio evidence of Weinstein’s actions (which she did)," states the complaint. "She did not learn that Brafman was actually Weinstein’s attorney until after turning over the evidence in her possession, causing her credible fear for her safety, severe emotional distress and injury to her business and property."
Brafman isn't a co-defendant, but his law firm is among those listed as "Law Firm Participants" in the "Weinstein Sexual Enterprise" that allegedly violated the RICO law. Others include Boies Schiller Flexner; K&L Gates; and BCL Burton Copeland. The complaint also has a section for "Journalist Participants," mentioning Dylan Howard at American Media Inc.
(K&L Gates says it has never represented Weinstein or any entity concerning investigations related to Weinstein. Spiro responds, "I never have and I never would represent Harvey Weinstein, and, in fact, I represent one of hte key victims, but Ms. Thompson has never been a client.)
The case could first explore whether the action was properly brought in court.
The attorneys in the prior class action have asked the bankruptcy judge for relief from an automatic stay that is imposed on civil litigation upon the filing of a company's bankruptcy.
The Weintein Company has been opposing the motion.
"They request relief from the automatic stay imposed by the Bankruptcy Code to pursue — from start to finish — their broad 'casting couch' class action litigation, asserting 14 separate causes of action against The Weinstein Company Holdings LLC, Harvey Weinstein, nine other current and former directors of TWCH and various Miramar companies," stated TWC's lawyers on May 24. "That litigation is still in its infancy. As such, the relief Movants seek would subject the Debtors to briefing on motions to dismiss, extensive document requests, depositions and other fact and expert discovery, class certification proceedings, pre-trial motion practice and a full trial on the merits — all while the Debtors simultaneously try to preserve what value remains in the estate, close the sale of substantially all of their assets and establish a plan of liquidation for the benefit of Movants and all other creditors."
Attorneys for the six women replied today in court and questioned whether the debtor was living up to its public pledge to take victims' injuries seriously.
"They have fallen far short of that pledge and instead have seized every opportunity to thwart, silence and shut down the victims in an attempt to discredit their interests and voices," stated court papers. "The Debtors’ objection to the Motion for Relief is the most recent example that the Debtors continue to refuse to take the claims of the Movants — Mr. Weinstein’s victims — seriously, mockingly referring to the Geiss Litigation as a 'casting couch’ class action litigation.”
The Delaware bankruptcy judge has yet to rule, but now the attorneys at Hagens Berman have moved ahead with a new lawsuit with different named plaintiffs but largely the same type of claims.
The complaint begins, "The proverbial 'casting couch' was Harvey Weinstein’s office of choice, a choice facilitated and condoned by Miramax, The Weinstein Company and its Board of Directors. Plaintiffs, and hundreds of other females like them, found themselves with Weinstein on the casting couch at offices, in hotel rooms, in his homes or in rooms at industry functions. Under the guise of meetings ostensibly to help further Plaintiffs’ careers, or to hire them, or to make a business deal with them, or to socialize at industry events, Weinstein isolated Plaintiffs and Class members in an attempt to engage in unwanted sexual conduct that took many forms: flashing, groping, fondling, harassing, battering, false imprisonment, sexual assault, attempted rape, and/or completed rape."